Calle Ocho risks losing many businesses if the government does not allow for expanded outdoor seating by using parking lanes and closing streets like many places in the rest of the world and nation.
Little Havana business owners are finding themselves at an extreme loss of business as the COVID-19 pandemic continues for longer than anyone expected it to. For months, Calle Ocho has been clear of the tourists and visitors that would usually flood the streets because of the mandated shutdowns of many businesses, in addition to the closure of dining rooms in restaurants. Businesses have suffered tremendous losses because of the lack of foot traffic on the Calle Ocho strip.
Calle Ocho is a South Florida pillar that thrives on tourism, travel, and restaurants. Many of the restaurants are family-owned, run by generations of families who began their journey to Miami when they immigrated from Cuba in the 1960s. These people know what it is like to start from nothing and have worked all of their lives to build their businesses, pouring blood, sweat, and tears into the restaurants and shops that tourists love to visit.
Unfortunately, now, businesses have had 67 to 80 percent or more of their businesses revenue taken from them as the government has forced them to close and has made no effort to help restaurants with the expansion of outdoor seating space as the reopening has begun.
Even now, as restaurants in Miami Beach receive help from the government in the form of street closures to allow for more outdoor seating, Calle Ocho is silent and businesses are begging for assistance from a government that is currently letting businesses fail and putting owner’s livelihoods and families in jeopardy.
""FDOT has been extremely helpful to me and the City of Miami Beach when we provided a very cohesive plan that would keep pedestrians, people, and diners safe on some FDOT roads in Miami Beach while allowing extra seating outside. They agreed to allow the use of parking spaces to have more outdoor dining. I am sure that FDOT would be as receptive to Calle Ocho as they were to the closure and use of streets and parking spaces in Miami Beach. Based on my experience with Miami Beach they are completely open to it and they completely understand that under the “new normal” it is both their duty and goal to help our economy recover.""Commissioner Eileen Higgins
Miami Beach has closed off landmark streets such as Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue in the name of helping its restaurants get back the business they have lost. The city put together the Restaurant Recovery Outdoor Seating Pilot Program, which closes streets to vehicles so restaurants can expand their outdoor seating beyond the sidewalks.
Mayor of Miami Beach Dan Gelber expressed excitement on behalf of the government, which is prioritizing pedestrians over cars, allowing for locals and visitors to enjoy the city as they did prior to the pandemic.
This is the kind of support that Calle Ocho businesses are longing for right now. They need the use of parking spaces to allow them to establish outdoor seating beyond the sidewalks to build up more business revenue. Instead, businesses are still relying mostly on delivery and pick up, which can only take their business so far, and it is not far enough.
“We have lost 70% of our revenue and we would use any extra space allotted to seat our customers given the opportunity.”Jesus Daza of Ocho Burger
“Our sales are down 75% and being able to seat people outside could help greatly.”Jose Colon of Mofongo Restaurant
Bill Fuller of The Barlington Group also had a bad experience, which he detailed to Calle Ocho News last month. He is saddened by the way that the City of Miami is handling the crisis, especially for his business and businesses like his on Calle Ocho.
“There is no excuse to provide special, more restrictive provisions without a justifiable excuse or reason,” said Fuller after finding out that he could not reopen on May 18 like other restaurants, because he operated on a tavern license.
“They need to provide a reason as to why this is being done to small businesses so that I can give an honest answer to my employees.”Bill Fuller of The Barlington Group and Madroom Hospitality
Business owners are not complaining about this for themselves. They are angry and they are suffering because their employees are suffering. Their employees rely on these jobs to feed their families, and the local government is doing nothing to broaden the reopening and help the businesses to thrive like they once did.
Calle Ocho is calling on the City of Miami to close local streets and allow for outdoor seating to be expanded into the street for all restaurants. Our restaurants on Calle Ocho have been the hardest hit and will fall if not properly taken care of and supported after the pandemic.
The Little Havana area as well as Calle Ocho is a landmark. People from all over the world come here to experience the mix of Hispanic cultures that the Calle Ocho strip has to offer. If the restaurants on this strip are not supported, there will be nothing left for tourists to return to. There will be nothing left for locals to see as they walk to their jobs and pass the strip.
We are calling on the City of Miami, our elected officials, and the Florida Department of Transportation to act now, because time is of the essence.
Businesses are suffering. Families are suffering. Calle Ocho is suffering.
The landmark that tourists come from everywhere to visit will be lost if the businesses are not supported.
Please sign the petition today read more here.
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